Press Statement dated 18 July 2019

It is a sad day for the leadership of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) to learn that employee relations division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) resorted to intimidation tactics ahead of the upcoming national protest action on 26 July 2019.

Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says the Union received letters this morning that were circulated by employee relations managers of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

In the letter employees are asked to sign whether they will participate in the upcoming joint national protest action by die Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and UNTU on 26 July 2019 nationwide.

Fedusa and UNTU have notified the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) of the planned protest action in terms of the Section 77 Certificate granted to the federation by its Steering Committee.

Fedusa and UNTU have also already applied to the various law enforcement authorities to approve the routes planned for marchers in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The necessary permission has been granted.

The Federation must give the various employers 48 hours’ notice of the national protest action which will be done next week.

“This historic Section 77 certificate protects anyone, irrespective of whether they belong to UNTU or to Fedusa, to join us and participate to highlight this life threatening social economic issue that is preventing millions of workers from using passenger trains, the cheapest form of public transport in South Africa,” says Harris.

He wrote a letter to Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of Prasa, to remind him that to date PRASA has been unable to adhere to all the terms of Judge Cassim Sardiwalla’s order in the Gauteng North High Court on 12 October 2018.

For the past eight months Prasa have been operating on the mercy of the Judge after the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), the statutory watchdog over railway safety in South Africa, revoked the passenger rail agency’s safety operating license.

Harris says to date Prasa did not manage to fill all its critical vacancies, could not do proper procurement to ensure that basic maintenance of train coaches where done and is completely unable to operate a safe and reliable passenger train service.

“With the upcoming protest action UNTU is not focussing on all Prasa’s obvious flaws but pointing out the lack of assistance and support the passenger rail operator is getting from all the other spheres of government from municipal level right up to President Cyril Ramaphosa himself.

“UNTU would have appreciated it if Prasa leadership could have shown its appreciation for the Union’s efforts to highlight their dilemma and empower its managers. Unfortunately, due to reasons not known to UNTU, this is not the case,” says Harris.

The national protest action comes after UNTU and Fedusa have exhausted all other avenues with various stakeholders over the past three years in vain.

Issued on behalf of United National Transport Union (UNTU) by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer